Ranked as the seventh most widely spoken language in the world, Portuguese remains the language of eight countries; Brazil, Portugal, and Mozambique call Portuguese their official language, while many islands off the coasts of India and China use Portuguese as their unofficial tongue. All told, more than 210 million people speak Portuguese, and 1.3 million native speakers of Portuguese currently reside in the United States.
Portuguese is one of many so-called "romance" languages, meaning that its origins are from Latin. Other examples of some popular romance languages include Spanish, French, and Italian. As English is also a romance language, studying Portuguese can actually help improve your English! The roots of words in romance languages correlate; you will be able to better decipher English vocabulary words and improve your English vocabulary by learning Portuguese. The opposite is also true: you will be able to understand some Portuguese words due to your command of English. Studies show that students who learn a romance language perform better on standardized tests, become more cultured and informed as a result of their access to international sources of information, have a more well-rounded understanding of literature and how to critic it, and get recruited more often by international corporations.
Despite the spread of the Portuguese language to lands far and wide, and the researched benefits of learning a romance language, few students choose to study the language. For that very reason, a command of Portuguese will make you a stand-out candidate in the job world, especially in the realms of literary studies, tourism, commerce, trade, and banking.
Though they represent very diverse fields, both literature and trade are closely tied to Portuguese. The Lusiads, a famous epic poem stemming from the Renaissance period, was originally penned in Portuguese; it recounts the events of explorer Vasco de Gama on his first voyage to India. On the other side of the spectrum, Brazil represents the eighth largest economy in the world, providing those with a background in Portuguese a unique opportunity for global business partnerships.
Aside from the literary arts and business, Brazilian music in Portuguese can most fully be enjoyed only by those familiar with what is being sung and why. The most well-known example of Brazilian Portuguese music is the samba. Although first introduced by African slaves in Brazil, the samba beat today is popular in Latin nightclubs the world over. Therefore, knowledge of Portuguese can also open you up to the vibrant culture of Brazil and beyond through the country's historical musical messages and rhythms.
* Please note: The official language of Brazil is Portuguese. However, there are opportunities to learn other indigenous languages and/or different Portuguese dialects prevalent in Brazil as well. You may want to check and see if your study abroad program offers language instruction in one of Brazil's other prevalent languages besides Portuguese.